What price might we pay if teco energy is sold to duke energy or fpl hp gas online

###

While TECO has gone mum for now, chatter over its selling out has surfaced from time to time for many years. When St. Petersburg-based Florida Progress Corp., parent of Florida Power, suggested it could not keep up with the bigger competition and opted to sell out in 2000 to a North Carolina power company (that in turn was gobbled up by Duke Energy), smaller TECO and its survival odds were questioned. The Tampa Bay Times reported in 2002 that a British power company was eyeballing TECO as a potential purchase back when international power deals were more common.

It so happens that J.D. Power just unveiled its annual ratings of electric utilities based on the satisfaction levels of their residential customers. Once again, Duke Energy Florida rated the worst, dead last among 13 large utilities operating in the Southeastern states.

"We’ll take the results, the good and the bad, and learn how we can serve our customers better," Duke spokeswoman Paige Layne told Duke’s hometown newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, on Thursday. She noted that Duke’s utilities scored double-digit point increases from last year’s survey. "We think we’re moving in the right direction," she told the paper.

In Florida, TECO’s electric customers are not clueless about Duke’s dubious track record with its ratepayers. Already there’s a buzz out there that, should TECO sell, any buyer would be preferred than to become part of Duke Energy, already the nation’s largest power company.

To be clear, Tampa Electric’s customer satisfaction ratings in the same survey are also poor, ranking only slightly higher than Duke Energy Florida but still well below the regional average. Still, Tampa Electric customers want improvement, not a further decline in future service.

One word of caution: Trying to pick a real winner among giant electric utility monopolies is like choosing between the sounds of fingernails on chalkboards or a screeching cat fight at midnight. These are giant monopolies. None will become your best buddy.

Like so many other industries — think airlines and banks — TECO operates in a quickly consolidating line of business. Power companies face increasing and costly pressures that range from ending their reliance on unhealthy coal to power their electric plants to facing the rapid rise of alternative energies, including solar power, that are challenging the electric industry’s historical monopoly way of doing things.

TECO still relies on coal for more than a third of its fuel to generate electricity. It has toyed with solar, but to little effect. It considered pursuing another "clean coal" plant that uses expensive technology to reduce coal pollution, but abandoned the idea as too costly.

It’s trying to sell — unsuccessfully so far — its coal business in the Appalachian states despite a sale price that keeps dropping. It bought New Mexico Gas Co. — just as it diversified by once acquiring Peoples Gas — to ease its dependence on customers in its limited Tampa Electric service territory in Hillsborough, Polk and parts of other nearby counties.